Sunday, May 27, 2018

The elevation of Mushir Abd al-Mahdi Jamal ibn Hakim

Climbing out of the car that Monday after a hot, un-air conditioned, hour-long drive from work left with with two main goals in my life for the moment; getting inside to AC, and getting something iced to drink. As I closed the car door behind me, I glanced at my phone, taking a mental inventory of the posts and instant messages that I hadn’t looked at while on the road. To my surprise, Mahdi’s name was on the list today.

“Are you planning on attending Warlord in two weeks?”

“Unfortunately, I am not,” I replied. “Why?”

“Too bad. I was going to ask if you could be my herald for my Master of Defense elevation ceremony.”

I staggered, mid stepp, as I read that. Gym bag over one shoulder, big thumbs hovering on my phone’s touch screen. It took me a moment to process the text, and then a moment more to process it’s meanings.

“Oh....!Well hell, that changes things!”

And that was how I found out I was going to herald for Mahdi.

About a year and a half (maybe less) before, I had happened into a chance conversation with Deana de la Penna, an interaction that proved to be the first step in my heralding my first first peer into their elevation ceremony. Ultimately, however, it would be held at the same event, the same site, one year previous.

And so, I set out to do in two already busy weeks what I had managed to do in about three or so months previously. The contrast between the two as clients was stark and a clear learning experience, but also, pleasant in itself. With Deana, I was able to talk in details about each step of the process, the procession, and the expectations we had for each other. I was setting benchmarks for myself, and I knew it, and I knew that coming up short on any of those was a failure by definition. I was okay with this, and Deana was, and remains a most gracious and wonderful client and person.

Mahdi, however, was much (much!) more on the fly. We had two weeks, and no time for finess. Each part of the team (vigil, procession, music, herald) would have to  throw their all into their own aspect of the process, and then we would come together at warlord. It wasn’t completely different from Deana's, but the differences did outnumber the similarities.

I wrote for two days, mostly stolen minutes and hours between breaks and lunches, and after I got home. I wrote, cut, wrote some more and cut some more. Much as before, I didn’t want this to be a bland reading of a list of awards. I can’t think of a faster way to make an audience’s eyes glaze over than something like that. It's not that the awards were unimportant, but they are not the reason we would be there, but rather indications, or symptoms (if you will) of the reasons. Those awards would have to be packaged inside a narrative that would be compelling, engaging, and (not in the least unimportant) less than four minutes to read.

I started by looking at the OP. If you read carefully, in this case the awards sort of tell their own story.

Award of Arms 1989-08-12 
Sable Falcon of Ansteorra 1989-11-11 
King's Champion 1990-03-18 Mikael II
King's Gauntlet of Ansteorra 1990-07-21 Mikael II
Knight o/t Society 1994-01-08 
County 1997-07-26 Kahlid
Sable Comet, Award o/t 2001-03-02 Emerald Keep
King's Champion 2001-07-07 Duncan I
King's Blade of Chivalry 2001-10-06 Duncan I
Court Barony 2004-01-03 Steppes 01/03/2004-05/26/2007
Oak o/t Steppes, Order o/t 2004-01-03 
Duchy 2006-07-08 called Mushir
Queen's Rapier of Ansteorra, Award o/t 2014-05-24 
Sable Talon of Ansteorra, Award o/t 2014-11-08 Rapier Combat
White Scarf of Ansteorra, Order o/t 2015-05-09 
Lion of Ansteorra; Defender o/t Dream 2017-05-27 Gabriel II & Sonja II
Queen's Blade of Honor 2018-05-12 Margherita II

I went over the list in my head several times before i began to see a pattern. Roughly speaking, the man’s career is in thirds, the first being his rise to knight, the second being his leadership as king, then landed baron, and then king again, and the third was his entry into rapier, culminating in his elevation. I worked with that, the theme ultimately codifying as “the biography of a hero” for me, with the story three chapters long (so far, anyway). It actually didn’t take me very long past that to write the skeleton of what I needed. Fleshing it out took a little longer, but with the proverbial bones in place, the shape of it wasn’t hard to clarify on my mind.

Two weeks later, my wife and I, our son in tow, rolled onto site for warlord.

The grounds were special to be. Twenty years before, my wife and I had shared our first kiss there, following the climactic battle between the Liondragon Guard and the Arthurian company. Coincidentally, that would mark the first time that the guard marched with a non-resident member in its ranks, as Count Mahdi had been welcomed into the unit that same morning.  The relationship between the tall, strikingly featured Moore and Mooneshadowe’s tough-as-rocks infantry unit would continue when Mahdi would ask the Liondragon to escort him into his second coronation (also at the same site), one of the few times when a guard unit not local to a king would serve in such a role. Later in the same reign, Mahdi while attending a Mooneschaodwe hosted King’s Round Table,  would oversee the announcement of the then Shire of Mooneschadowe’s  elevation to the kingdom's only Province. All of this put the man close at heart to Mooneschadowe and its people, myself included.

Mahdi wasn’t on site yet, he and his wife were celebrating a wedding anniversary. Ourselves, we were there to say hello, and maybe see if anyone would join us a dinner. Chance and goof fortunate conspired to see us run into Kel, a friend from the local area who I had spoken with a handful of times before. Dinner was just a wonderful chance to enjoy some air conditioning, talk, drink lots of iced soda, and have a good meal.

Dawn the next day brought us to the main event itself, a day of preparation, vigil, and me alternately talking with people and trying not to freak out over the procession. Say what you will, but my nerves seemed ready to give me a heart attack about seven or eight times throughout the day. As the day rolled into afternoon, and then evening, I was grateful for the conversations and the distractions that let me not hyper-focus on the procession, including a wildly successful salon hosted by HL Beatrix Funteyn. I think I was one of only a few men to sit down and share company with the otherwise female dominated circle, but the company was witty, funny, and all around pleasant. Another conversation I was honored to share was with an old face from my past, Airaklee  (“Eric Lee”) Wolf.

Twenty one years ago (at the same event where Mahdi had marched with the guard, and Lillias and I had first kissed), Airaklee had lead the “Scottish” side of the so-themed “Battle of three kings” event, taking on the roll of William Wallace (though I think as much of his performance that day was taken from the film than history). I had only chanced a few conversations with him in the intervening years, but he had always been someone who, at least for me, added to “the dream” around him when he spoke. That conversation was little different, with big ideas and glad tiding trading between us through genuine smiles.

Afternoon traded to evening, and court closed in on us. I went to Mahdi at this point and asked about the final details of the procession. A quick conference later, and we were gathering the final pieces of the puzzle that were the procession. Mistress Rhiannon would lead the party with a scimitar balanced atop of head, followed with Mahdi and Valeria, side by side. Flanking them would be two umbrella barriers, in the Mediterranean tradition, and in close formation around and behind  Mahdi, like a semicircle, would be balance of the party...

Photo compliments of Melanie Gallon

Including Tostig holding the “combat trumpet”.

Photo compliments of Melanie Gallon

I would lead, heralding the full length of the aisle by myself. When I turned and ushered the party in, musicians would play in accompaniment to the entrance while I also made my exit. I had timed my reading of the entrance script multiple times through; three minutes and twenty seconds. Longer than I might normally want a procession to be, but I was confident I could sell it, I could perform it and draw the audience in.

We sat in the back, waiting as court moved through the awards, local, AoA, and then Grants. Assuming they didn’t announce anyone, the first warning we would have would be the calling of the Masters of Defense. The wait was punishing for me, but I have never been good at waiting.

Sitting there, as the awards moved on I pulled on my formal garb, and then the heraldic tabard with his Grace’s arms on it. I cradled in my hand my herald’s baton, freshly detailed with his arms across the head. I was wearing 4 garments, one on top of the other, for well over 8 layers of fabric, some of it not inclined to breath in the still-warmer-than-comfortable hall.

Then, the herald called the Masters of Deference forward, and we knew we were down to the last moments. I rose, composed myself, and looked back over the procession party. They had stepped into place perfectly. They waited on my signal, and waited with silent smiles of excitement and anticipation.

The introductions up front were done, barely audible in the back. The King asked the Master’s if their order was complete, and as per the ceremony they replied ‘no’.

The crown herald called for Duke Mahdi to step forward.

The moment had come.

I started in the back, standing tall, and holding my baton high in the air.
Photo compliments of Melanie Gallon

Hear ye, hear ye! Today we see a biography in three chapters, a life of many adventures.

My voice carried like a thunderclap through the hall. I could hear it resonate off the ceiling. I had the unbroken attention of the whole court in that moment. The stage was mine, and I was going to make the most of it for the next three and a half minutes.

Mahdi: The story of a knight.

We see the fledgling efforts a man giving of himself on and off the field as he discovers this newfound dream. We see an award of arms, followed later that same year by a Sable falcon. Mahdi  would press on, eventually proving his prowess and becoming King’s champion under Mikael II, also earning a King’s Gauntlet. The final page of this first chapter was penned when 4 years later, Mahdi was welcomed into the order of the chivalry  and sworn in fidelity to the Crown of Ansteorra.

I had slowly stepped forward as the paragraph moved on. Making my way to the midpoint, halfway down the aisle. When it was completed, I stopped, raised my baton again, and continued.

Mahdi: The story of a Leader.

For ten years Mahdi proved himself both leader, and worker. Mahdi Sat the throne less than three years after becoming a knight.  But his work does not stop with his reign.  As a Count, properly called Kahlid, Mahdi would be awarded the Sable Comment for service to Emerald keep, and then again hold king’s champion and be named holder of the King’s blade of Chivalry. For three years he would lead the Barony of the Stepps next to his wife, Baron and Baroness, and then join the order of the Oak of the Stepps, while also being made a baron to the court. Our second chapter ends as Mahdi descends the thrones for the second reign, and is made a Duke, properly called  Mushir.

I was moving again, concluding as I reached the front. I still had almost every eye on me when I looked. I turned my left side to the crown, my back to the musicians at one side, and my front cutting across the majority of the audience.

Mahdi: The story of a Defender

On this site 9 years ago, Mahdi stood before Don Robin of Gillwell and took on the mantle of Cadet, setting forth on a new path, a new adventure. This story tells of studies and dedication,  recognized first with a  Queen’s rapier, and then with a Sable Talon. The midpoint of this chapter saw Madhi welcomed into the order of the White Scarf of Ansteorra.

The efforts of this man have forged a mind as sharp as any edge, a body as strong as any shield, and a heart dedicated to the dream. These traits were so recognized in this hall, one year ago, when Gabriel & Sonja II named Mushir Mahdi as their Lion, their defender of the dream.

So now we come together today to witness the last page of this the third chapter. We come as history is written, witnesses to a man ready to complete another journey.

I pointed my baton down the aisle, took a deep breath, and let everything I had blast out with the last line.

So now, before this august court and assembled gentles I present to you
and Lion! 
Mushir Abd al-Mahdi Jamal ibn Hakim!

With the last sound, the musicians started, and I turned to exit the court, my role done.

Mahdi was welcomed into the order with all of the reverence and splendor befitting a Master of Defense. Following the ceremony, the court closed, and the audience broke up quickly to tend to their evening plans, not the least of which for many was congratulating Mahdi.

Photo compliments of Melanie Gallon

As i made my way to the drinks left over from Mahdi's vigil, a lot of people were catching me and providing wide-eyed thumbs up over my introduction, including Wladyslaw, a good friend, and her wife both gleefully declaring “that was epic!” Mahdi voiced a wide-smiling approval of the whole procession, and was thankful for everyone’s part.

Tired, now horse from pushing myself too hard, and physically exhausted, I collected my family and we made our departure, the task at hand done.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Monday, April 9, 2018

An Argument for Voice Heralds

Even for those outside of the SCA, we all live with the echoes of the past surrounding us every day. Things of the here, the now, draw on things that came before them to meet the ever evolving roles our society calls for.  The emblems of offices of state, company logos, and official services such as the police and the fire service carry on the tradition that was at one time called heraldry. The technological marvels of the sewing and embroidery machines build upon the lessons and techniques learned over centuries by weavers, tailors and seamstresses across the globe. Modern weapons of war, including the bayonet and the helmet each have their lineage through bygone eras, including the “middle ages.” Marching techniques practiced by marching bands in high schools and colleges across the country draw on close order drills first developed in the early age of pike and spear formations.

As a former firefighter, security, and correctional officer, IT, and bachelors degree holder in Safety and loss prevention engineering, I am acutely aware of the vital importance of communication in the modern world. Not only are radio and mobile phone communications convenient at conventions and large activities, they are vital to the point where not having access to them on at least an official level is widely considered negligent. The ability to reach out for help, of course is vital, but also the ability to convey real-time information to large groups of people across a large site is vital to help assure a smooth day, weekend, or even multiple weeks of activity. This reality is understood in both official and unofficial capacities across the world. The federal Incident Command System has a dedicated communications officer built into its design. Large scale conventions, auctions, and trade shows incorporate PA systems, large signs, or even outdoor projectors to help direct hundreds, or even thousands of people. Whole industries currently exist to feed the technical hardware needs of communication at every level and capacity.

And it is not that the need to communicate is in any way, shape or form new. History is replete with thousands of incidents where the very shape of events would have been very different if one critical message made it at the right time, or had not made it at all. Some of the warfare’s greatest leaders were noted for their ability to command at distance, thanks in part to their schemes of communications. Reference materials abound to the ever increasing resources that generals, lords, and kings put into their communication efforts, be that signal flags, skilled horses, lanterns, or just loud people.

In the SCA today, event stewards across the known world assume the unique responsibility of running events in modern circumstances, with modern understandings  and sensibilities, but tackling those same hurdles with only traditional resources whenever practical. By whatever happenstance we want to call it, the title and role of voice herald has picked up the mantles that mundanely are handled by PA systems, scoreboards, and megaphones. We, as a society, have chosen to invest the extra effort into helping preserve the medieval ambiance by asking people and not technology to announce court, call the lysts, cry the site.

But we are not investing enough into it.

It has been my observation that this vital trade, whose role is positive and important without question, is increasingly being pushed aside, delayed, or ignored outright, treated  as a second-hand duty.

The benchmarks for this are stark in their display.

Were a modern Fire Engine’s radio to fail, the whole apparatus would be pulled from service until the equipment was fixed, or replaced (if only temporarily).

Yet repeatedly, coordinating heralds (also called Heralds in Charge) are left unnamed until weeks or even months after the event is announced and the steward named. In some cases, they are not even named until days before the event, if at all. This scheduling robs them of vital time to recruit help (both locally and regionally), coordinate, and plan.

Modern scoreboards at sporting events are tested and repaired weekly, and at times daily in order to assure that audiences have access to the information conveyed. These tools, though hardly glorious, are seen as vital to the event, and the technicians who maintain them are understood to be critical to success.

However, over the years far, far too many tournaments leave the name of the coordinating lyst herald undecided until days or even hours before the tournament. Many are so understaffed that fighters step in to cry the rounds. And yet, time and time again, interested parties are heard to ask at meetings where and when they can learn to lyst herald, and are only provided with vague directions of who might be some place the day of the event.  At the same time the most capable heralds on site aren’t even aware of the need, and otherwise obligated when help is called for at the last minute.

Modern PA systems, especially in schools and large buildings, are tested as part of the building’s emergency systems, and are now integrated into the automated alarms that help guide people to safety during a fire or other life threatening incident. Announcements at conventions can bolster activity attendance, calm rowdy crowds, and even preempt disaster before an emergency response is needed.

As a veteran site herald in the kingdom, and five time site herald for Gulf Wars, it has been to my horror to hear people, peers, leaders, and decision makers openly advocate for the dissolution of site heraldry at the the second largest event in the SCA. Attitudes both hostile towards, and dismissive of site heraldry as a concept existed, and still persist at interkingdom, kingdom, regional, and local levels. And even when the need for announcements are recognized, again the roll is often times haphazardly tossed off towards a single person, late enough in the process to rob them of vital planning and recruiting time. Untrained, unprepared, and often times tired people volunteer to walk long distances and shout loud statements without even basic training in projection or phrasing. Messages are garbled, people are further tired out, and volunteers learn that site heraldry is a chore that has to be done, rather than a have the chance to see it as a functional, vital part of an event’s communications.

If we are to draw any lessons from our modern experience, it is that the roll of communications is not something to be piecemealed haphazardly.

A single event, even a small one, has basic heraldic requirements that can be calculated. A site herald is needed for announcements, lyst heraldry services for the tournaments, and perhaps someone to add some flair to the evening feast by announcing the courses. And of course a herald for any courts. With tight scheduling, this could all be done by one or two people, at least with a small event. If you were to make it a larger event, with a larger tournament,  and rapier and chivalric at the same time, that will require one herald for each tournament, and if there are enough fighters, you will need relief heralds to keep from exhausting someone.  Larger still, and the tournaments could go to multiple fields, and the need for two heralds could double, or even triple. Mooneschadowe’s Triumph, and Namron protectorate are just two examples of events large enough to typically run four fields at a time. If you need to do mid-day announcements, then you have to have someone, or multiple someones, depending on how big site is, to do site heraldry as all of your lyst heralds are obligated. Come time for feast, there is a good chance that most of the heralds will be tired, some may even opt to sleep through feast, it's not unheard of. It's not even remotely unrealistic to suggest that another herald still would be employed for that role. Court, even for a small event, will need a court herald, and that is a skill set that is more often than not separate from those previously mentioned. A larger court could need two heralds, or even three if there is a long list of items to be attended to. If there is a royal presence, while the crowns will very likely bring their own herald, that herald will almost assuredly be coordinating with the local heralds.

If you factor all of that together, and consider the demands of a typical baronial level championship, that could mean as many as ten different heralds coordinating their time and efforts towards making the event run that much better. Every day that we take away from them to plan in advance is an obstacle that we willfully place between us and optimal success.

Most of these people, who have a specialized skill set, or are still learning that skill set, also have other interests. When we leave the details of heraldry to be figured out hours or even minutes before the event in question, we compel heralds and prospective heralds to either give up heraldry, or turn their back on other obligations that were already planned.

Every hurdle left in place is a disrespect to the veteran heralds who want to give of their time, and a discouragement to new and aspiring heralds who are chasing their personal dreams in the SCA though heraldry.

The responsibilities of voice heraldry should be spelled out in writing and clearly delegated out at the same time the remaining balance of event deputy stewards are named.

In the event these are unified under a single “herald in charge”, that person should be engaged and made knowledgeable of his responsibilities at the same time as the feast steward, or the gate steward or any other of the principle deputies.

If those roles are delegated out to others, (ex. lyst heraldry falling under the lyst mistress, site heraldry under the autocrat, feast heraldry under the feast steward, and Court heraldry left the sitting noble,) than those others need to even more vitally have written directions about these added duties, and if they themselves are not knowledgeable in the heraldic arts, they should be encouraged to name an appropriate deputy with all due speed.

But one thing that must be clear in this; there is no reason the staffing of heraldic duties should not be as thorough or planned for as a signup sheet to work gate, or serve tables, or clean the privies would be, and each of those lists clearly denotes the overall authority responsible for the job at hand.

And from a purely functional standpoint, heraldry, beyond being an art, a historical discipline, and an important part of the medieval era we work to recreate, is absolutely needed. Someone has to announce the paring at the lysts, someone has to call court, and someone has to do even the most rudimentary of site heralding at most events. Not to mention the need to convey information to attendees if something drastic changes.

There is already a group of people who have these skills, who want to use them, and who what to do the job well. For them, the dream is expressed a heraldry in a way no less vibrant than a fighter’s armor or an artisan’s creation.  But they, like any other aspect of an event, need the ability to plan accordingly, and in advance.

When we take away time from our heralds, we take away their ability to prepare, to teach, to learn, and to succeed. That directly affects, and reflects on the quality of the event, and our character as event stewards and deputies. There truly is no way around that point.

When we wait until the last minute to talk about heralds, we are telling them they aren’t important, and that their Dream is not important, and that their contributions do not matter. While at the same time scrambling to find someone to do the job when it comes up.

We owe our heralds better than that.

We owe our events better than that.

We own ourselves better than that.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Friday, April 6, 2018

Might and Magic PT 3 (Gulf Wars 27)

So, the situation that Thursday beggs the administrative question, what do you do when you are arguably the best ceremonial herald on site, but you are thrown into almost literal chaos while trying to perform a quick presentation before a foreign crown?

If you’re Alexander Ravenscroft, the answer is “you improvise”, which was just about all we could do, standing on the edge of the champion's battle. Not that the battle was going yet. Not by a long shot. You see, all of the principle kings, and the allies had arrived at a meeting the night before and talked at length about the format of the Champion’s battle. Reportedly, they had departed with agreement on how things were going to take place.

So of course, the dozen or so assembled crowns who were there that morning showed up with what looked to be twenty or more different and conflicting ideas between them. There were three or four roving clusters of kings (and entourage) wandering this way and that on the battlefield in front of the castle, talking constantly at (not necessarily with) each other. While this was going on, most of the queens that I could see were sitting in their thrones, (also with entourage) watching these goings on with some unknown measure of either amusement or annoyance, I could only guess much poast that. The scene would have been more entertaining for me if there weren’t also well over two hundred others swarming around, mostly fighters, but also extended entourage, consorts, spouses and friends as well, and all waiting for some final word as to how the battle was going to take place, and when it was going to happen.

Somewhere in this, Master Alexander and I were going to make a quick, but public presentation where he formally took me as a protege. I don’t think either of us really wanted to compare notes about how bemused we respectively were at the confusion of the situation, but nonetheless we did have a mission to complete, such as it was.

At some point in this, he turned, and handed the rolled up yellow leather belt that was to be mine over to his former protege, master Mathias. “Hold this,” he said to the recently minted Pelican, and then ran off on his own mission the same type of purposeful steps I have come to expect from him.

I had known Mathias only slightly less time than I had known his now wife, Mara Palmer. The latter I had met at Gulf Wars 23, the former a year later under separate circumstances. Goofy to the core, but good spirited and hard working, he had found ourselves shoulder to shoulder one night as a makeshift set of would-be heroes tacking a small emergency. During one of the lulls as we were triaging our (deliberately ambiguous) situation, I looked over at him and said “Oh, by the way, I’m Ivo. hi.”
“Mathias” he said by way of reply. And thus, as was very much the common theme at Gulf wars for me, a friendship was formed.

Now, two years later, we had another commonbond to share.

After arriving on site late Wednesday afternoon, he had tracked me down only after finding his wife and greeting her.

As it happened, he related to me that he was one of the first of a string of calls Alexander had made before make his offer to me. Ever the diplomat, and hardly ignorant of interpersonal politics, Alexander had checked in with each member of his household and his one currently active former student to ask each of their reactions to the idea of offering me a yellow belt and by default, inviting me into the household of his friends.

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget Mathiases words when he related his answer for me.

“That’s an great idea. In fact, if you don’t offer it to him, I will!”

I had rocked back on my heels at that note. Later that night when talking with Alexander, he had confirmed the narrative word for word, and while there was open humor in the statement, the good feelings didn’t mask the fact that both men were deathly serious as well. I had gone from nobody’s student, to two friends and pelicans both willing to offer me a belt on the spot if need be.

Now, a day later, Mathias was not going to let the joke rest. As soon as Alexander had his back turned, he flipped out the yellow leather belt and jumped forward, pulling the belt across my midsection. “Here quick, before Alexander claims you!”

We both broke out laughing at the jest. “Lord, you are an ass, you know that?” I asked him between laughs.

“Always,” he confirmed in kind.

I paused my laugher for a moment. “And thanks for having that much confidence in me. It means a lot, from either one of you, let alone both.”

The other man’s laugh transitioned to a sincere smile then, and he nodded. “Always.”

Alexander returned a short while later, the same purpose in his stride. “Okay, lets do this.” he said, clearly decided that there was no better time like the present.

The first item of business was the blessing of the crown. Alexander was taking a student across kingdom lines, questions of loyalties and respects had to be answered first. He knelt before Her Majesty Ansteorra, (conicidently the same queen who had presided over the KWH&SS that I had first met Alexander at), and asked permission. Gwen, who knew he on site, smiled with dignified excitement at the idea and gladly gave her blessing to the whole arrangement. It was about as close to being ordained as the thing was going to get in the SCA.

The ceremony itself was quick, and straightforward. After a last minute dash to by a few to collected people who were both interested and available (which for the middle of the day was unfortunately not many), Alexander began in earnest while the Kings were still running around (literally) negotiating how the champion’s battle was going to run.

The first step was a announcement to the general attendees, Alexander stating simply (and loudly) that he was going to take a protege, and an audience was welcomed.

Some ten minutes later, he called to all assembled and then returned into the royal presence of HRM Ansteorra. He spoke eloquently, but briefly about the bond between people, and that bond across kingdom lines. Then, he rose, walked over and unrolled the yellow belt he had purchased for me.

A moment later it was pulled around my waste and bucked.

And with that, the deed was done. I was now officially protege to Master Alexander Ravenscroft of Meredies.

Her Majesty concluded the whole thing by stepping over and adding her blessings to the event, congratulating me, and wishing me the best of fortunes going forward.

Interestingly, I could conclude this narrative with a recounting of the congratulations, or the well wishes, or the fun talks that followed. And be assured, there were a lot of each and every one, some of them breathtaking in their words.

But perhaps the most fitting end to this story is  a smaller story of its own.

It started the next morning, Friday, as dawn broke. Nature had traded its biting cold for a warming humidity that more than hinted at rain. By the time I was done with my shower, the grey skies had fully rolled in and the rain had started.

I was making my way to the Five Points, the drizzle now a steady downpour, when I ran into Master Donnavin making his way in the other direction, heralding a delay to the morning’s rapier activities. I intercepted him, told him I would finish the announcement, and then urged him to find shelter, his garb was not as weather suited as mine was just then.

As I rounded out my impromptu and wet announcement, I crossed into Last Bastion and made my way over to their kitchen tent and repeated what would be the last herald of the moment. As it turned and walked away, intent to now make it to the Five points and information point, someone called after me.

“My lord!” I looked back to see  a woman jumping out from under the cover of the tent and running up behind me. “What is your name, and who is your pelican?”

The question gave me pause. While I had been asked perhaps a dozen times at gulf what my name was, in that moment, I had forgotten completely about the yellow belt on my waist just then, as well as most of the previous day. Tired, and purpose driven, my real only concern was getting my job done.

“I am His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk, out of Ansteorra. And my Pelican is Master Alexander Ravenscroft from Meredies.”

“Excellent!” the women proclaimed. “We know master Alexander! And thank you for your work here.”

And with that she ran back to cover to escape the rain.

The whole thing gave me pause, not for any ill, or good reason, but the understanding that this was, or at least might be, a new metric in my SCA career was something that I needed to process.

As we collected for the friday morning announcements. Two men walked into information point, one a chapparone, of sorts, and the other a fighter, young, healthy, eager, with an interesting story of why he was there. It seemed he wished to be a knight, and ergo sought a red belt. A knight of his kingdom had agreed, but only if he had completed a list of tasks, the last of which was he had to learn how to voice herald, and today was the last day for him to complete the trail.

Years ago, long before any of this, I had been approached by a newly made Fyrdman from Calontir who had been tasked by his countrymen to collect knowledge from each kingdom present at way. By some random chance, I had been the Ansteorra he had selected. In that encounter I had realized, only afterwards, that I was one of those steps in that man’s personal adventure, I was a page in his story.

Here, in much the say way, we were the same for this man. And while he may never remember our names or faces, in this moment it was my duty to make sure what he did recall was beneficial, and positive.

I welcomed him wholeheartedly, encouraged him, and the explained what we would be doing. I assigned him to Mathias, and sent them both to merchant’s row. Like the tired, but determined soldiers we were by then, all of us ventured out into the rain.

Hours later, the last of us, young and old, the now hardened core of the Gulf War Site heralds, as well as a few new and enthusiastic recruits from the week, gathered for the last regular cry of the week. This time, I took King’s highway, and this time, like many times before over the years, the rain was a steady downpour.

I made my way down, mostly ignoring the rain where I had to, and ducking under shelter where I could. I was not loud, but rather option to save what was left of my voice by walking up to clusters of people where I could. As I made the turn to loop back towards Calontir, I ducked under a pavilion.

On the other side, a man in black, traditional Japanese jacket, a white belt tied around his waist. And at his side, the young fighter from the morning, a red belt tied around his waist. Before I gave the announcements, I offered congratulations to the newly made squire, and a reassuring word to the Knight. “According to my volunteers, your squire here acquitted himself well. He’s welcome on any site or listfield I’m heralding.”

“That’s good to hear. Thanks for telling us,” The knight said.

“Glad to,” I replied. Then I rattled off the announcements in short, now well practiced order.

As I turned to leave, I considered then that the young man, who’s name still to this day escapes me, was stepping into the first part of what could very well be a grand adventure. And by some bit of chance, I was fortunate enough to be a page in that story.

But then it also occured to me; These people were also part of my story. These random figures, encountered by chance, were pages in my life’s narrative.

And it was up to me to make sure my story was worthy of the people in it, be they great, or small in their part.

I stepped out from under the pavilion that afternoon now more fully aware of not only the yellow belt on my hips, but so much more of what it signified.

I stepped out into the rain that afternoon, onto the turning, putted, muddy road.

It was going to be a wet, ugly, turing walk, I knew.

But I also knew in my heart of hearts, that I was going to enjoy every step of it.

The end
Part 2 (previous)

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"